SOCHI, Russia: New Zealand coach Anthony Hudson says the All Whites must be brave against Mexico, knowing defeat on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) will see them eliminated from the Confederations Cup.
Their 2-0 loss to hosts Russia in Saturday’s opening Group A match means Oceania champions New Zealand have now gone a record 10 games without a win at the tournament having left the 1999, 2003 and 2009 editions empty-handed.
Following Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Portugal, Mexico are upbeat and favourites to win the showdown in Sochi.
In contrast, underdogs New Zealand must break their goal drought to have a chance against Mexico.
After 1-0 friendly defeats to both Northern Ireland and Belarus en route to Russia, the All Whites have now played three matches in the last two weeks without scoring.
They badly need a good result against the Mexicans with Euro 2016 winners Portugal to follow in Saint Petersburg on Saturday in their final group match.
“We’re determined to approach this game with the right mind-set and we definitely want to progress,” said Hudson in a press conference on Tuesday.
“We need to be positive, we need to be brave. Mexico are a world-class side and we’re the smallest team in the competition.”
New Zealand narrowly lost 2-1 to Mexico in a friendly in the United States last October and Hudson, 36, believes his side can build on their display in that game.
“We played them in October in front of 40,000 fans, it was a close game and we caused them problems.
“We don’t want to go in and be fearful, or negative or sit back and let Mexico do what they want.
“I’m expecting an incredible spirit from our team—this is a massive game for us.”
Goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic, who faces a busy night against the likes of ex-Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez, believes New Zealand can pull off an upset.
“We can definitely get a result against them,” said the 25-year-old.
“We were unlucky against them before so we’ll be going for three points.”
Mexico performed well against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal in their opening game, and their head coach believes they can reach the final in Saint Petersburg on July 2.
“I think we have the chance to fight for the title here—with a fit and healthy team we can go toe-to-toe with any team,” said Juan Carlos Osorio.
“We think we have a great chance tomorrow. New Zealand are a very different team to Portugal, but they are a hard team to beat.
“We will change the line-up looking at their style of play and go out to win.”
Osorio’s admission that he will rotate could see captain Rafa Marquez, 38, handed a start. Winger Hirving Lozano, 21, whose move to PSV Eindhoven was completed on Monday, is another contender to feature.
Marquez is the only player at the tournament to have previously lifted the Confederations Cup, doing so when hosts Mexico beat Brazil 4-3 in the 1999 final.
“We’ve been trying to figure out if they will make changes,” said Hudson.
“They have players with quality in all positions, but I believe their style will stay the same. It’s a world-class squad and an incredible test.”